This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
In 1838 the legislature, seeking to provide permanently for the school system, enacted that the amount of the state subvention should, in the future, be one dollar for each taxable inhabitant within the several districts. *85 This act was, of course, not binding upon subsequent legislatures and very little attention seems to have been paid to it in the following sessions. The effect of the law, had it been observed, would have been to cause the subvention to increase automatically with every triennial enumeration of taxables, and in this way, assuming that the amount of one dollar per taxable was adequate, the increase of the grant would have kept pace with the needs of the system. In this connection it should be noted that the legislature, in providing for the one-dollar-per-taxable subvention, did not alter that provision of the law of 1836 which fixed the minimum tax requirement for the districts receiving the subvention at an amount equal to the quota due each district from the subvention of that year. It would thus have been possible, had the law of 1838 been observed, for the districts to continue to draw triennially a larger state subsidy and yet to levy the same local tax. It can hardly be supposed, however, that this failure to repeal the provision of the earlier law was the result of neglect or an oversight; for it was only after repeated urging from the state superintendent during several years that the repeal was actually accomplished.
(in thousands of dollars)*
Local Tax Levied
Expenditure for Buildings
Expenditure for Instruction and Incidentals
* These data are from the Report of the Superintendent of Common Schools for 1855, p. 346. The reports of the superintendent did not at this time contain complete data for the Philadelphia schools, since they were not required to report to him. Inquiry at the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and at the offices of the school authorities in Philadelphia failed to discover the financial statements of the Philadelphia schools for this period.
85 Act 12 April, 1838, P.L. pp. 332-333.
In later appropriations the rule of one dollar for each taxable was not followed. In 1841, $330,000 was granted, *86 but in the following year the appropriation was measurably reduced. *87 In 1843 it was again raised to $250,00088 and then reduced again to $200,000 in 1844. *89
In the disastrous year of 1843 attempts were made to curtail state expenditure wherever such a course was possible. The salaries of state officers were reduced, and the less necessary items of expense were dropped from departmental budgets. *90 It was but natural that at such a time there should be some questioning of the subvention to common schools, and it was proposed to suspend the payment of the subvention for a period of years until the finances of the state were in a more secure position. *91 In support of this plan it was argued that, while the grant might have been justified when the finances of the state were prosperous, it should not be continued at a time when heavy taxes and the severest economy were necessary for the payment of interest on the public debt. It was asserted that it was inequitable to permit certain counties to draw from the state treasury an amount equal to, or in excess of their contribution to state expenses; that the payment of the debt was the first obligation of the state, and that all expenditures that stood in the way of its fulfillment should be eliminated. *92
86 Sec. 14, Act 4 March, 1841, P.Z,.p.312.
87 Jt. Res. of 4 April, 1842, P.L. p. 485.
88 Sec. 1, Act 29 September, 1843, P.L. of 1844, p. 6.
89 Sec. 1, Act 31 May, 1844, P.L. p. 583.
90 Act 4 April, 1843, P.L. p. 324.
91 Superintendent of Common Schools, Report (1844), p. 16.
92 For example "A Letter to the Pennsylvania Legislature on the subject of the state debt, by Publius," a pamphlet published in 1844.
93 Report (1844), p. 6.